by Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist
I feel certain that many bucks have been spotted while hunters’ have been on the hunt for turkeys. Some of these bucks may still look like does and you may wonder how in the world they will grow bones before the fall. Good news: antler tissue is the fastest growing tissue in the Animal Kingdom. It is also the most nutrient and energy consuming time of a buck’s life. Quality nutrition is responsible for a big part of antler growth (as well as genetics and age). Some of the bucks may have visible velvet already, but others may not have visible antler regrowth yet. Every organism is different, so the hormones may act different in each individual. However, a drop in testosterone after the rut is responsible for the antler dropping off, which happens in late February to March in our neck of the woods. As soon as the antler drops, immediate regrowth starts at the pedicle (the small bump on top of the buck’s head) and the new antler is completely covered in velvet. This part of the cycle is due to the length of the day resulting in less production of melatonin in male deer. As melatonin decreases the antler completes its growth and is covered in velvet which is protecting the blood flow to the antler. As fall approaches and testosterone begins to pump again, the velvet begins to fall off (or is torn off by scraping trees) and the antler hardens and becomes the ivory or chocolate color we are accustomed to seeing. Who knew that two hormones were responsible for such a magnificent process?
I believe that this process is what makes finding a shed so special to me, especially when I find one before the squirrels get to it! Fortunately, I was able to find a matching pair two weeks ago and they were completely unharmed. Keep your eyes open as your cramming in your last few turkey hunts because you never know what you might stumble upon in the woods.
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